Shfar'am ( , ; , ) is a city in the North
District in Israel.
According to the Israel Central Bureau of
(CBS), at the end of 2008 the city had a population
In the Roman Era
, the town was known as
"Shofar Am", Hebrew
for "horn of a nation".
It is thought that this name is derived from that of the Jewish
, which for a time was located in
the city and was considered the nation's horn. Alternatively, the
name could be based on the literary Heberw word shefer
שפר, meaning "beauty" or "goodness", i.e. "the beauty of the
The Arabic story for the name that is widespread among the people
of the city is different. It is said that Amr Ibn Al-Aas
, an Arab
military commander, was sick when he came to the area, and when he
drank of its water he was healed, so his soldiers started saying in
"Shofiya Amr" (Amr was healed), and
that was the source of the name. The spring which Omar drank from
is still standing today southeast of the city. Others think that
the name "Shfar-am" was changed to an Arabic form "Shefa-'Amr" in
the Ottoman period
Archaeological research in Shefa-'Amr indicates that the area has
been inhabited for centuries. It is unclear who the early
inhabitants were, although they may have been Canaanites
. Shefa-'Amr is mentioned in the Talmud
as one of the cities that contained the seat
of the Jewish Sanhedrin
. It is again
mentioned in connection with Jewish
against the Romans, and Jewish graves and remains in
caves dating to the Roman era of rule in Palestine
have been found there.
Shefa-'Amr contains Byzantine
including remains of a church and tombs. Under the Crusader
the place was known as Safran.
village (called "Shafar Am) was used, between 586-590 H., by
Saladin as a military base for attacs on
1229, the place was back in Crusader hands, and it was confirmed as
such by Sultan Baybars
in the peace treaty
of 1271 C.E. (670 H.), and by Qulawun
1283. However, it apparently came under Mamluk
control in 1291 C.E.
During early Ottoman rule in
, in 1564 C.E., the revenues of the village of
Shefa-'Amr were designated for the new waqf
Hasseki Sultan Imaret
Jerusalem, established by Hasseki Hurrem Sultan (Roxelana
), the wife of Suleiman the Magnificent
dated 981 H. (1573 C.E.) mention
that Shefa-'Amr was among a group of villages in nahiya of Akka which had
rebelled against the Ottoman administration.
By 1577 C.E.
the village had accumulated an arsenal of 200 muskets. In the 1596 daftar, Shefa-'Amr was part of the nahiya (subdistrict) of Akka with a
population of 91 households ("khana").
The taxable produce
comprised "occasional revenues" and "goats and beehives". Its
inhabitants also paid for the use or ownership of an oil
It was not until the eighteenth century that the village rose to
real prominence. At the beginning of the century the village was
under control of Shaykh Ali Zaydani, uncle of DahEr el-Omar
and leading shaykh of lower
. It is also known that there was a
castle in the village at least as early as 1740. After Daher el-Omar
's rise to power in the 1740s,
Ali Zaydani was replaced with his nephew, Uthman; a brother of
. After Daher el-Omar
's death in 1775, Jezzar Pasha
allowed Uthman to continue as a
ruler of Shefa-'Amr in return for a promise of loyalty and advance
payment of taxes. Jezzar Pasha even
allowed the fortress to remain intact despite orders from Constantinople that it should be destroyed.
later Uthman was removed and replaced with Ibrahim Abu Qalush, an
appointee of Jezzar Pasha
During this period Shefa-'Amr was a regional centre of some
importance. The importance of the village was due to two factors;
firstly, its position in the heart of the cotton
growing area, secondly its natural and manmade
defences. The significance of cotton to the growth of Shefa-'Amr is
fundamental. Tax returns for the village attest to the large
returns expected of this crop.
Shefa-'Amr in 1910
Until 1900, the Jews of Shefa-'Amr worked as farmers. Subsequently
they started working as merchants because of the high taxes.
they went to live in Haifa and Acre, until in 1920 the last Jewish family was forced
out the city in the wake of the 1920 Palestine riots.
when Britain ruled the area, they appointed a military governor
until 1948, when Israel was founded
and Shefa-'Amr became a local council.
Shefa-'Amr was part of the area allocated to the Jewish state by
Nations General Assembly Resolution 181
, the partition plan of
November 29, 1947. It was defended by Arab Liberation Army
troops led by
, but conquered by
Israeli forces on July 14, 1948.
The Mayor of Shefa-'Amr Ibraheem Nimr Hussein held the chairmanship
of the Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel (later the Arab Follow-Up
Committee) since the inception of this committee in 1975. Orsan
Yassin , the Mayor who replaced him in the 90's, did not want to
take a part of this committee so he resigned from it and the
chairmanship was given to someone else.
The fort is located in the middle of the city. it was built in 1760
by Daher el-Omar
, at the time the
governor of the area, for the purpose of securing the entrance to
Galilee. The fort was built on the remains of a Crusader
fort from The
, called "Le Seffram".
wanted to go as high as possible with his fort because he wanted to
be able to see his brother's fort in Safed.
was able to build the first two floors but when he started on the
third one he stopped apparently because he had low funds and also
the low security in Galilee
in that time.
The first floor of the fort was a big place for the horses, the
second floor was where Dhaher used to live. Daher's fort is
considered the biggest remain of the Zidans in Galilee
establishment of the state of Israel the fort was
used for a few decades as a police station, after a new station was
built in the "Fawwar" neighbourhood it was renovated and converted
to a youth center club.
Nowadays the youth club is closed and the fort is unoccupied.
Byzantine period tombs
period tombs are located in
the middle of the city. They were the graves of the 5th and 6th
century Christian community. The tomb entrances are decorated with
sculptures of lions and Greek
inscriptions which make mention of Jesus
Shefa'-Amr is home to an old synagogue on the site of an even older
structure. It is recorded as being active in 1845. During the
October 2000 events
Yassin stopped youth wanting to burn it down with his body. The
synagogue was renovated in 2006.
Shefa-'Amr old market
The old market
The old market of Shefa-'Amr was the pounding heart of the city,
stretching on a long area in the middle part of the city. The old
market contained the main stores of the local inhabitants for a
long period of time, it had restaurants, clothing stores,
groceries, shoe makers and more.throughout the times the old market
started losing its position as the heart of the city and businesses
started gradually moving out of it to other places all around
Shefa-'Amr. The only place that is still opened and working until
today is an old coffee shop where old men gather every day passing
their times playing backgammon and drinking Arab coffee.
According to the new mayor of Shefa-Amr Nahed Khazem he got a
governmental budget for improving and reviving the old market and
the area surrounding the Fort, the work on them will start soon
with the hope of making them attractive for visitors of the
Although it is called "The Tower" by the local residents and its
surrounding neighbourhood is called "al Burj" ("The tower" in
) this structure was actually an old
fort. The structure has been
neglected over the years and its in a bad shape nowadays.
St. Jacob's Church
center of the city, where the Sisters of
Nazareth convent stands today, was a 4th century church called St.
This church is mentioned in the notes of
Christian church historians, although the church is not still
standing today (the church of the monastery is where it was). Some
marble columns remain, like those used to build the earliest
St. Peter and St. Paul's Church
St. Peter & St. Paul's
Is located in one of the town's peaks near the fort, it has a high
bell tower and a large blue dome. The church was built by Otman,
who made a promise to build it if his fort was finished
successfully, so its history goes back to that of the fort. The
walls of the church started to get weak so in 1904 the whole church
was strengthened and improved. It remains standing today and is the
main church of the Greek Catholic community of Shefa-'Amr.
Rabbi Yehoda Ben Baba Grave
Rabbi Yehoda Ben Baba was a well-known Rabbi from the 2nd century.
He was captured and executed by the Romans. His grave is still
standing in Shefa-'Amr and many Jewish believers come to visit
Shefa-'Amr is an ancient city located in the
District in Israel at the
entrance to Galilee. It is located from
the Mediterranean Sea and from each of three cities, Haifa, Acre and Nazareth, which gives its inhabitants ample opportunity for
The city is located on seven hills, which gives
it the name "Little Rome".
The elevation of the city and its strategic location as the
connection between the valleys and mountains of Galilee
made it more than once the center of its
district, especially in the period of Otman the son of Dhaher al-Omar
, who built a castle in it, and
towers around it. If you stand in a high spot in the city you
can see a great view: the bay of Haifa with the sea
stretching between Haifa and Acre in the west, and in other directions the high
mountains of Galilee and the valleys
surrounding the city.
Shfar'am's diverse population drawn from several different
communities gives the city a relatively cosmopolitan and
According to CBS, in 2001 the religious and ethnic makeup of the
city was mostly Israeli Arabs
(consisting of 57.3% Muslim
, 27.5% Christian
, and 14.6% Druze
See Population groups in
According to CBS, in 2007 there were 34,123 registered citizens in
the city thereof 17,000 males and 16,800 females. The population of
the city was spread out with 16.8% 19 years of age or younger, 5.1%
between 20 and 29, 7.4% between 30 and 44, 4.8% from 45 to 64, and
1.5% 65 years of age or older with a Medina age of 23.6.
Population in Shefa-'Amr over the years:
According to the CBS, as of the year 2000, there were as many as
7,114 salaried and 872 self-employed workers in the city . The mean
monthly wage in 2000 for a salaried worker in the city is ILS
3,836, a real change of 3.4% over the
course of 2000. Salaried males have a mean monthly wage of ILS
4,543 (a real change of 5.3%) versus ILS 2,386 for females (a real
change of -3.3%). The mean income for the self-employed is 5,777.
There are 507 people who receive unemployment benefits and 5,315
people who receive an income guarantee.
According to the CBS, there are 16 schools and 7,299 students in
the city, which are spread out as 10 elementary schools hosting
4,324 elementary school students, and 8 high schools hosting 2,975
high school students. 57.7% of 12th
grade students were
entitled to a matriculation certificate in 2001.
In the eastern part of the city Mifal
built many educational buildings including: a public
computer center, a public library, a big hall for various occasions
- The Beit al-Musica Conservatory - founded in 1999 by
musician 'Aamer Nakhleh' is a well known music establishment among
the local art establishments. Situated in the center of Shefa-'Amr
it not only offers a year-round programs of music studies in
various instruments but also holds lots of music ensembles,
performances and concerts.
- Every year the city of Shefa-'Amr holds a big music festival
called "The Fort Festival", young Arab children from all around the
country come and perform one of many classic Arabic songs and at
the end of the night one of them is awarded the title "Best voice
of the year".
- The Ba'ath choir - was established
in Shefa-'Amr by Raheeb Haddad, it's a well known choir that
performs tens of concerts all over the country and participates in
many international art concerts.
- Reem Talhami - is a well known
classic singer, participated in many concerts all over the Arab
- Tayseer Elias - is one of Israels
best Arab musicians and violin players.
- Butrus Lusia - Probably the best
artist Shefa'Amr has ever known. Throughout his life Butrus worked
on lots of art projects, but since the 60's people started asking
him to paint Christian icons which they contributed for the
churches of Shefa'Amr, today most of the icons in the churches are
of his work. But perhaps his best work is the one he painted back
in 1940 of St. Elia and other saints riding a fire chariot going up
to the sky which he conserved until his last day.
Al Ghurbal main building in
The first serious theater works in Shefa-'Amr were held back in the
50's by the Christian scouts of the city, many plays were held over
the years by the members of the scouts.Later in 1954 a few of young
people from the city established a new acting group that held 2
Voluntarily plays for the purpose of establishing a new scouts
movement.for the next two decades, between the late 50's and the
70's, there were no real theater movement in the city except of
some high school plays. In the 70's many theaters started appearing
in the city, and many plays were held by each of them. probably the
most known of them are: the sons of Shefa-A'mr theater, Athar
theater, house of the youth theater, Alghurbal Al Shefa-'Amry
theater and Al Ufok theater. today the biggest theater in the city
is the Ghurbal Establishment which is a national Arab
One of the well known artist in the city is Sa'eed Salame, an
actor, comedian and a pantomimist. Sa'eed established an
international pantomime festival that is being held annually for
the past 4 years, pantomimists from all around the world
participate in the festival which is held for 3 days.
For food items, Shefa-'Amr is most famous for its mastic
-flavored ice cream, bozet Shefa-'Amr
and the Nakhleh Coffee Company, the leading coffee producer in
Israel's Arab community.
In the last year new restaurant-cafes have been opened in parts of
the old city; those places are becoming the main cafes the youth of
Shefa-Amr choose to spend their free time and special occasions
in.One of those cafes, called Awt Cafe, started holding musical
nights where local singers and instruments players like Oud
and others play for the crowd of visitors. Being a
new trend in the city these nights are becoming a great success and
the cafe in those nights is always full of people who come to enjoy
a cultural night with their friends and families.
Violent incident in Shefa-'Amr
On August 4, 2005, an AWOL Israeli Defense Force
, opened fire while
aboard a bus in the city, killing four Israeli Arab
citizens and wounding twenty-two
others. After the shooting, Natan-Zada was overcome by nearby
and beaten with rocks.
According to witnesses, the bus driver was initially surprised to
see a kippah
-wearing Jewish soldier making his way to
Shefa-'Amr (an overwhelmingly Arab city) via public bus, so
inquired of Natan-Zada whether he was certain he wanted to take his
The four fatalities were Hazar Turki
, two sisters in their early
twenties, and two men, Michel Bahouth
(the bus driver) and Nader Hayek
. In the
days following the attack, 40,000 Arabs
attended mass funeral services in the town for all of the victims:
the two sisters were buried in an Islamic cemetery, and the two men
were buried in the local Christian Catholic cemetery.
Shfaram and Israel Independence Day
In January 2008, the Mayor of Shefa-'Amr, Ursan Yassin, met with
officials of the Israeli state committee on the celebrations for
the 60th anniversary of independence, and announced that Shefa-'Amr
intends to take part in the celebrations. He stated:This is our
country and we completely disapprove of the statements made by the
Higher Monitoring Committee. I want to hold a central
ceremony in Shefa-'Amr, raise all the flags and have a huge
The 40,000 residents of Shefa-'Amr feel that they are a part of the
State of Israel...The desire to participate in the festivities is
shared by most of the residents.
We will not raise our children to hate the country. This is our
country and we want to live in coexistence with its
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